Many herbs have well-known medicinal properties. If you are considering a themed garden but don’t know where to start, consider growing an herb garden, or an apothecary garden. Dating back to Medieval Times, apothecary gardens have been frequently used by monastic orders to treat common ailments such as colds, inflammation, infections, and minor wounds. Many medicinal herbs and plants are easy to grow and offer a myriad of benefits, often in the form of poultices, salves, and elixirs. Research is necessary to understand which herbs to grow and how to prepare them to access their medicinal benefits.
Save time and money by growing an apothecary garden. Many culinary herbs also have healing benefits, allowing for a multipurpose use. An herb garden is considered low maintenance, as they can be grown in raised garden beds, pots or containers. Vego Garden has a collection of Herb Garden twin pack kits for those seeking to exclusively grow herbs in their garden. Alternatively, the Kids Garden kits can also be used to grow herbs and other plants on a small-scale.
Long recognized for its pleasant fragrance and violet color, lavender is frequently used in aromatherapy and in skin and beauty products. Possessing a variety of medicinal benefits, it has been used to treat anxiety, insomnia, fungal infections, and hair loss. Studies have shown that lavender oil can calm irritated skin, lessen rashes, and reduce wrinkles. It can be added to bath water, lotions, or applied directly to skin. Plant lavender in well-drained, moderately-fertile soil in full sun for best results.
Along with its use in Italian foods, basil’s anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties make it popular among gardeners. Because of its ability to address a wide range of physical and psychological ills, holy basil has been revered since ancient times and is often placed around Hindu temples. Traditionally, it has been used to treat infectious diseases such as colds and reduce stress and anxiety, which has been supported by modern research. Containing antioxidants that combat disease, basil extract has been shown to help inhibit resistant strains of bacteria that do not respond to antibiotics. The best way to access its natural benefits is to grow it yourself, whether in a pot on the window sill, or in a raised garden bed. Crush some basil leaves to ward off mosquitos and other bothersome bugs.
Resembling small daisy-like flowers, chamomile has been used since antiquity and has been described in texts dating back to ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome. While there are several kinds of chamomile, Roman chamomile and German chamomile are commonly sought for their medicinal properties. Roman chamomile is a perennial that is rarely cultivated and has a scent reminiscent of apples. An annual plant, German chamomile is more widely cultivated and is great for flower beds, containing a scent similar to sweet straw. Often used in tea for minor digestive issues and sleep disorders, it has also been used to soothe skin and treat inflammation. Although uncommon, there can be side effects, including nausea and allergic reactions. If you are allergic to related plants such as daisies, ragweed, and marigolds, then there is a possibility you are allergic to chamomile.
Known for its bright, golden orange flowers, calendula is a flowering herb in the Asteraceae family that resembles marigolds. Commonly used for ornamental purposes or as coloring agents, it has antifungal and antimicrobial properties that help prevent disease, soothe eczema, and heal injuries. The edible flowers can be used in teas, salves, and oil infusions to help treat various ailments. It is also a well-known companion plant that attracts bees and butterflies to the garden. Creams containing calendula have been reported to improve skin, although more research is needed. To get an early start, plant calendula indoors 6 weeks before the last frost, and then transplant it after the danger of frost has subsided.
- Lemon balm
Lemon balm is a perennial herb in the mint family with an uplifting, lemon scent. Traditionally, lemon balm has been used as a cure to insomnia, a potent antiviral remedy, and as a digestive tonic. Although many herbs prefer full sun, lemon balm grows better under partial shade, preferring cool, moist habitats similar to the Mediterranean, its native habitat. Like mint, it has a tendency to spread throughout whatever container it is in and may take over the garden if left unchecked. If this becomes a concern, select a container or small raised garden bed to act as a barrier to prevent it from spreading. It is more effective fresh or freshly dried, as it loses much of its scent and potency upon drying.
Yarrow is a lesser-known herb with small, dense clusters of flowers that range from white and pastel to bright colors of yellow, red, and gold. While often considered a perennial weed, yarrow has decorative uses in native or butterfly gardens and is convenient as first-aid. Having been used in poultices since Ancient Greece in wound healing, its benefits are mainly derived from its flowers. Additionally, it may enhance memory, fight inflammation, and improve digestion. Leaves and flowers can be steeped in boiling water to make tea or infused into oils to make salves and balms. Possessing a sweet, mildly bitter flavor, yarrow contains flavonoids and alkaloids that may alleviate depression and anxiety.
Common in Mediterranean cooking, oregano possesses a strong, piquant flavor and is often used as a natural antibiotic to fight against bacteria and viruses. Add a few drops of oregano infused oil to boiling water to naturally soothe a sore throat or to help with digestive problems. While it grows best in full sun in well-drained soil, it can also tolerate rocky soil conditions. A manageable herb, it will grow from 1 to 2 ft tall and spread about 18 inches, making it suitable for container planting.
Another aromatic herb of the mint family, sage has a strong earthy flavor, which is why it is normally taken in small amounts. Smudged sage has long been used to cleanse spaces, whether for spiritual purposes or for health reasons. No matter what form it is in – dried, fresh, or in oil form – sage has many health benefits. It can reduce bad cholesterol levels, improve memory and cognitive function, and protect against certain cancers. Sage grows best in a location with well-drained, sandy loam soil and full sun.
Peppermint is commonly used to flavor toothpaste, candies, and mouthwash. Due to its antimicrobial properties, it has been used by hikers to kill harmful microbes in the water. In addition, it relieves headaches, joint pain, itching, and muscle aches, making it a staple for hikers. Even if you do not like to hike, you can still gain the benefits of peppermint, whether by chewing it or applying it in the form of essential oils. It has been shown to help with skin conditions, inflammation, headaches, respiratory infections, and nausea. Although it can tolerate partial shade, peppermint prefers full sun and moist soil, which will improve its flavor. While garden mints tend to spread aggressively, peppermint is relatively mild and should be regularly harvested to encourage compact growth.
Also known as purple coneflower, echinacea is a popular choice in ornamental and native flower gardens. It has been used extensively by Native Americans of the Great Plains to treat a variety of ailments including inflammation, colds, sore throats, snake bites, and toothache. While the root of the plant is the part primarily used, the flowers, either fresh or dry, can be used to make tea. They can tolerate poor soil conditions, including sandy, rock, and clay soils, as long as it is not overly wet. Soil rich in organic matter can hinder flower growth and result in prolific foliage instead.